CAMPAIGN: Edinburgh TV festival taps national agenda

It has been a turbulent year for the television industry. From a faked phone-in quiz to a rigged reality show...

Campaign Media Guardian Edinburgh International Television Festival
Client Media Guardian
PR Team PagetBaker PR
Timescale April-August 2007
Budget Undisclosed

From Richard & Judy to A Year With The Queen, a series of scandals provided an extraordinary backdrop for The Edinburgh International Television Festival 2007, the essential ­annual industry event.

Now in its 33rd year, the festival features prominent industry voices and hosts keynote lectures, preview screenings, masterclasses, interviews and networking parties, covering issues from policy to programme making.

Objectives
To generate international media coverage and increase delegate numbers. To position the festival as the main platform for the industry and the ­media to address the year’s key issues.

Strategy and plan
Given the heightened interest, a broader-than-usual media community required access to key figures and ­debates. PR agency PagetBaker worked closely with sponsor MediaGuardian to drip-feed relevant media with speaker and panel information in the run-up to the festival, with the aim of building anticipation and increasing bookings.

Releases – including news of the ­involvement of Gerry McCann, Jeremy Paxman and Guardian columnist Lionel Shriver – were put out at strategic moments throughout the summer.

To generate international interest, the agency secured opeds to highlight the festival programme and generate debate, using top figures involved in the event, such as Newsnight editor Peter Barron and Endemol UK’s chief creative officerTim Hincks.

PagetBaker also commissioned a YouGov poll to gauge the public’s level of trust in TV. Do they trust it more or less than, say, estate agents or tabloid newspapers? The results were released on the first day of the festival.

Throughout the weekend, the agency ran the Five-sponsored press centre, serving 150 accredited journalists and overseeing the release of key news items, such as Jeremy Paxman’s MacTaggart Lecture. This generated a great deal of media interest and set the agenda for the weekend’s debates.

Measurement and evaluation
More than 1,820 festival-related press cuttings were generated, covering all of the UK national daily and Sunday newspapers. Broadcast coverage included Sky News, BBC Ten O’Clock News, Newsnight, the Today programme, BBC Radio Five Live and ITN.

The festival was also featured throughout the August bank holiday weekend on BBC News 24, bbc.co.uk, Reuters and on podcasts from MediaGuardian and Broadcast magazine.

Results
Delegate numbers rose to more than 2,000 – the event’s highest-ever attendance. The festival remained a fixture on the news agenda all weekend and continued to generate comment and analysis in national and ­industry media throughout the following week.

The Observer TV critic Kathryn Flett says: ‘It was a frenetic weekend for all concerned but PagetBaker ­remained cool under pressure without ever losing the plot, the will to live, or their sense of humour.’

SECOND OPINION...

Lynn Li (l), communications director, Discovery Networks UK: From launch, PagetBaker delivered a slick media-relations campaign. Strategically released news announcements dripped out over several months, keeping interest levels up.

And then, in July, the TV industry came under fire and the landscape changed. The agency demonstrated sound judgment by commissioning a YouGov survey to garner public reaction.

The ‘Trust in TV’ survey findings were well utilised for launch day and successfully forced the festival agenda in one direction.

Additions to the programme, featuring broadcasting heavyweights talking about trust and integrity, created a whole new perspective.

By focusing on hooks such as Jeremy Paxman’s address, ‘Trust in TV’ debates and the controversial presence of Gerry McCann, one could argue that the event would have PR’d itself.

But it still takes strategic thinking and old-fashioned hard graft to service the media efficiently and sustain press coverage across three days. PagetBaker did a flawless job of operating a professional onsite press room, and the resulting UK coverage was impressive.

My only gripe is that efforts were so single-mindedly directed towards feeding the inward-looking UK news agenda that other remarkable aspects of the festival were overlooked.

Less shoe-gazing and more vision might have helped promote the event’s international remit. More proactive use of the international speakers, such as Google’s 64-year-old internet evangelist Vint Cerf, would have offered the global media a more rounded impression of the event and the TV industry as a whole. A US colleague of mine said afterwards: ‘This feels like one big therapy session for you guys.’ When you read the coverage you can see his point.

 

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